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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Migratory shearwaters integrate oceanic resources across the Pacific Ocean in an endless summer

  • Author(s): Shaffer, S A
  • Tremblay, Y
  • Weimerskirch, H
  • Scott, D
  • Thompson, D R
  • Sagar, P M
  • Moller, H
  • Taylor, G A
  • Foley, D G
  • Block, B A
  • Costa, Daniel P
  • et al.

Electronic tracking tags have revolutionized our understanding of broad-scale movements and habitat use of highly mobile marine animals, but a large gap in our knowledge still remains for a wide range of small species. Here, we report the extraordinary transequatorial postbreeding migrations of a small seabird, the sooty shearwater, obtained with miniature archival tags that log data for estimating. position, dive depth, and ambient temperature. Tracks (262 +/- 23 days) reveal that shearwaters fly across the entire Pacific Ocean in a figure-eight pattern while traveling 64,037 +/- 9,779 km roundtrip, the longest animal migration ever recorded electronically. Each shearwater made a prolonged stopover in one of three discrete regions off Japan, Alaska, or California before returning to New Zealand through a relatively narrow corridor in the central Pacific Ocean. Transit rates as high as 910 +/- 186 km(.)day(-1) were recorded, and shearwaters accessed prey resources in both the Northern and Southern Hemisphere's most productive waters from the surface to 68.2 m depth. Our results indicate that sooty shearwaters integrate oceanic resources throughout the Pacific Basin on a yearly scale. Sooty shearwater populations today are declining, and because they operate on a global scale, they may serve as an important indicator of climate change and ocean health.

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